Thursday, September 30, 2010

Union Get Omared

Hey Philly? Your team might be a bit too interested in the Michael Vick - Kevin Kolb saga because they've apparently never heard of this guy Omar Cummings that the Rapids have. That's surprising considering Union player Jordan Harvey played here in Colorado with Omar last year. Despite that the Union didn't seem to even know he as on the field, as they left him unmarked in front of goal twice in the first 20 minutes and Cummings made them paying, staking the Rapids a 2-0 lead on their way to a 4-1 win last night.

Really that's all that really needs to be discussed. After we were up 2-0 Philly was done, threw in the towel at halftime by subbing off two veteran players for two young kids, conceded goals to Wells Thompson(!) and Qunicy Amarikwa(!) before getting one back just before full time. Hey, that makes them better than Chivas, Houston, and New England who have all been shut out recently at the Dick.

My key to the game was not letting down after the emotional game in Sandy. Apparently that wasn't a problem.

Other Observations:
  • Omar's two goals give him 6 in his last 4 games with the Rapids, plus 1 he scored in that time with Jamaica. He's got 12 overall on the season, putting him one ahead of Casey. Wow.
  • Gary Smith did a very good job of balancing his veteran starters with 3 games this week. Jamie Smith and Brian Mullan split time to get some rest, and GS got Pablo and Cummings (still recovering from the ankle injury) off the field early to give them some rest.
  • Unfortunately that meant starting Wells Thompson who had a bad game. He scored, but that's the one highlight he had. He clearly wasn't on the same page as the rest of the team.
  • Koz got his second assist in two games. Its actually going to be hard to send him tot he bench when Baudet returns.
  • Last night they moved Le Toux at half to the other side of the field to go at Moor and Wallace instead of Koz and Wynne. You don't see a MVP candidate moved around like that very often.
  • Moor was a beast on the backline last night. Well positioned to stop any kind of momentum the Union had.
  • Kandji with two assists, but he probably should have had at least one more or a goal. He and Amarikwa had 3-4 chances late in the game and needed all of them to score once.
  • Pickens had a quiet night, the only real threat was one he couldn't stop.
  • San Jose lost last night which helps our playoff chances.
  • With the win the Rapids have now exceeded their point total form last season. They have an 8 point cushion on the playoffs with 4 games to play.
Player of the Game: Omar Cummings, for the fourth time in the last five games (and the one time he didn't win it was because he didn't play). What more can you say about this guy? He's hotter than any Rapid has been in years.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Union/United Week To Start Separation From Pack?

This week the Rapids play the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday and DC United on Saturday, both at the Dick. The results against this Union/United combo will go a long way towards Colorado separating itself from the pack of teams at the bottom of the playoff field. We currently hold a 5 point lead over Kansas City in 9th place with 5 games to play. With wins in both games this week and if NY, as the favorite, can beat Kansas City our magic number for a playoff berth would be 2.

First up is Philly tomorrow night. Its the first trip to Colorado for the new expansion team. This game was rescheduled from July so that Philly could host Man U. Would have been nice if we could have hosted somebody this summer. Kickoff is at 7:30, with the tailgate at 5:30.

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear)
DOUBTFUL: DEF Julian Baudet (L hamstring strain);
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (L ankle sprain), GK Matt Pickens (groin)

Discipline Report:
SUSPENDED: Conor Casey
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Omar Cummings, Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Jamie Smith, Marvell Wynne

From all reports both Cummings and Pickens are expected to play tomorrow night. Philly is only missing one player so they're in good shape. The lineup seems rather obvious:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Wallace
Mullan - Larentowicz - Pablo - Smith
Kandji - Cummings

This lineup seems to be working, with the only change being up front. It will be the same midfield and defense we've started the last couple of games.

Key To Look For: Let down. We had a big emotional game on Saturday and we've got two games this week. It will be easy for the team to ease back at home against a weaker opponent but we need to keep the focus on getting 6 points this week.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Omar Cummings. I think the team will overlook the Union a bit to start and we'll be very slow in the first half. The Rapids get it together at halftime but have a hard time penetrating the Philly defense for more than a goal.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rapids Grab Important Road Point

The Rapids went to Salt Lake and drew those FaKeRs 1-1. Many tears will be shed over the last minute equalizer that FSL scored. Instead of a recap I want to address that.

Yeah, it sucks that we had our rivals on the ropes and were about to end their home unbeaten streak, only to lose 2 points in the final minute. But think about this. If somebody had told you on Friday that we would go into Salt Lake, be without Julian Baudet and Omar Cummings, and we would come put with a point you would have been surprised and certainly not unhappy.

A number of fans are saying"Well yeah, but that was FSL's B team". So? FSL was cocky enough to run out a B team thinking they could keep their undefeated streak going and they couldn't. In fact they had to sub in 3 regular starters just to get enough going to claim that draw. We were playing without our possible MVP in Cummings and a defensive leader on a night that our defense was disorganized. They were looking at a chance to take the lead in the Supporter's Shield race. In the end the point we got was much more beneficial to us than them. They got a draw that felt like a win, but in the grad scheme of things they were hurt and we were helped by the result.

My key to the game was showing up to play. I think we did that.

Other Observations:
  • Nice goal by Conor Casey to set the all-time Rapids record. To do it against FSL has to be that much sweeter.
  • Unfortunately Conor's yellow means he's suspended for Wednesday home game against Philly.
  • Kimura hit a great cross on the goal. I'd love to see more of that.
  • Pablo was a monster out there. That was a textbook display on how to play defensive midfielder.
  • Drew Moor, solid yet again. He's quietly become our most reliable man on the back line.
  • Ross LaBauex? Really? When Claudio Lopez is on the bench?
  • Not Kandji's best game. He had way too many turnovers.
  • Pickens might have been slightly out of position on the goal but it was hit really well.
  • I'm not sure what happened on the PK/no-PK call. I think it was a questionable call on the PK, but I can't figure out of the Rapids talked the ref out of the call or his AR told him he was wrong.
  • Great job by Class VI, Pid Army, the Bobbies, and the other supporters that made the trip. While I'm sure FSL had a bigger group the way they showed in on FSC made it look like the Rapids were the bigger and more organized group.
Player of the Game: Marvell Wynne. Yes, he was beaten on the goal and yes, he almost cost us a PK. Watch the game again though if you didn't notice his play. Without him we probably lose this game 4-1, if not worse. He was a monster on defense for he first 85 minutes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rocky Mountain Cup At Stake

Its the first of the two best games of the year, the Rocky Mountain Cup matchups with FaKe SaLt LaKe. The Rapids head West for the first game to the "wonderful" Salt Lake City metro area. Just as a reminder, the Cup is awarded based on points, with total goals as the tiebreaker. If the teams are tied on points and goals the current holders (right now FSL) retain the cup. Game time is 8pm and its a nationally televised game on Fox Soccer Channel.

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear)
DOUBTFUL: DEF Julian Baudet (L hamstring strain);
QUESTIONABLE: FW Omar Cummings (L ankle sprain)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (groin)

Discipline Report:
ONE CAUTION FROM SUSPENSION: Conor Casey, Wells Thompson
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Omar Cummings, Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Jamie Smith

It was announced today that Cummings did not travel to SLC. Not good. With Baudet and Cummings not playing we're going to have a new lineup. My guess:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Wallace
Mullan - Larentowicz - Pablo - Smith
Kandji - Casey

Yep, i think Kandji gets his first Rapids start in Cummings' place. otherwise the other 10 that started against New England will continue to start IMO.

Key To Look For: Its the Rocky Mountain Cup. Either you show up or you sit down. Nobody should struggle to get up for this one. Just as a reminder:

Prediction: 0-0 draw. With Cummings out I don't expect to have much offense and I think the team will come in with the idea of pitching a shutout. Our defense is good enough to do that now that we have players like Mullan that can hold the ball and take the pressure off of them. I think its a typical chippy Rocky Mountain Cup game that stays scoreless. I'm a bit out on a limb here, as this would be a great result for the Rapids, but I think they have it in them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Behold The Power Of Jameson's!

Colorado held true to their history on Jameson's Night, taking New England out back to the woodshed and beating them senseless. It may have taken awhile to put the game away on the scoreboard, the Rapids had control of the game from the opening moments and the Revolution never really had a chance. From top to bottom Colorado played one of their best games of the year.

Just 5 minutes into the game the rapids got on the scoreboard behind the hottest striker in MLS, Omar Cummings. Larentowicz played the ball into the middle and after some pinball it popped out to the feet of Jamie Smith. Smith played the ball into space behind the defense and Cummings ran onto it, putting it far post past Revs keeper Matt Reis from just outside the 6-yard box. 1-0 Rapids.

In the 35th minute Colorado doubled its league with one of the best passing sequences of the season. Conor Casey and Cummings played a quick one-two, at which point Casey laid it back to Jamie Smith and headed towards goal. Smith one-timed it to Cummings, who immediately played the ball into space in front of the onrushing Casey. Casey dumped the ball past Reis inside the near post. 2-0 Rapids and you could visibly see the fight go out of the Revs players. The goal was Casey's 39th as a Rapid, tying him with Paul Bravo for the all-time Rapids record in about 60% of the games Bravo played. Well done!

After that it was just a matter of playing out the remaining 55 minutes while New England had no fight. To add insult to injury Colorado wasn't done. Kandji, having just arrivede from NY, felt the need to get on the scoreboard with the assist. He put Wells Thompson in on goal with only Cory Gibbs to beat. Thompson juked right, went left, Gibbs was lost, and Reis was beaten near post again for a 3-0 lead. This is where I chuckle and point out that Gibbs was traded along with Burpo for Wells Thompson and Jeff Larentowicz. I think we got he better result out of that trade.

My key to the game was how hot Cummings was. well he still appears to be en fuego and proved it quickly with a goal and an assist int he first 35 minutes.

Other Observations:
  • Nice job by the Rapids in honoring Pablo's record setting appearance in NY last week before the game.
  • Brian Mullan looked like a huge improvement over Ballouchy on the right. His first touch alone created 3-4 dangerous chances that Ballouchy couldn't have taken advantage of.
  • Matt Pickens wasn't challenged much, which was probably good since it seemed his back was bothering him the way he had Moor taking goal kicks.
  • Kimura was solid on defense but his passing wasn't great. Still defense is priority one for his position.
  • Wallace looked fairly solid, though his complete whiff in trying to pass the ball the second half was probably a moment he'd like to forget.
  • We saw Cummings, Wynne, Amarikiwa, and Kandji in this game which has to be the fastest 4 players on one MLS team. If the league ever goes to a 4 x100 team relay for a tiebreaker we're all set. ;)
  • Pablo actually made it through 3 games without a card, so he gets one step further away from suspension.
  • Chicago's loss took them out of playoff contention,. but everyone else won to keep the pressure on.
  • And a special shout out to Monty and the other Revs fans that made the trip. The Midnight Riders (along with the Inferno in Dallas) are the best rival fans in the league. Always good to see those guys.
Player of the Game: Omar Cummings, for the third straight week. I really tried to give this to somebody else just to call out other good play, but Omar is so hot right now he can't be overlooked.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Jameson's Night!

Tomorrow night at the Dick the Jameson's Night tradition continues. Undefeated when the supporter's groups break out the Irish whiskey, the Rapids look to get one step closer to the playoffs by defeating the Revs. New England is already looking towards next season, so Colorado is expected to win this. They can't play like that though, or they will get burned. Kickoff is at 7pm, and the Jameson's is opened at 5pm (if not sooner).

Injury Report:
OUT: DEF Julian Baudet (L hamstring strain); MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (back spasms)

Discipline Report:
ONE CAUTION FROM SUSPENSION: Conor Casey, Pablo Mastroeni (One card removed if he gets through this game clean)
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Omar Cummings, Jeff Larentowicz, Jamie Smith, Wells Thompson

The Revolution have 6 players questionable or worse. They'll barely have a full game-day roster. Colorado has a couple of new players to select from, so there's some guessing going on in my lineup prediction this week:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Wallace
Mullan - Larentowicz - Pablo - Smith
Cummings - Casey

It sounds like Wynne is ready to go so I think he'll step in for the injured Baudet. I'm guessing that Mullan will go right into the starting XI but we could see Wells Thompson or Claudio Lopez in that slot. Otherwise I think the lineup is fairly solid.

Key To Look For: Is Cummings still hot? If Omar continues his hot streak think we have more than the NE defense can handle. If he cools off and we have to rely on Casey I think we can still win, but it will be a closer game.

Prediction: 2-0 win, goals by Conor Casey and Omar Cummings. Cummings and Mullan get assists. We should continue our home dominance of the last couple of games, as NE is no better than Houston or Chivas. I think Mullan will create a number of dangerous chances and Cummings will continue to be the best part of our offense.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The History Of Jameson's Night

Saturday is the 9th Annual Jameson's Night at the Supporter's Tailgate. Jameson's Night is the held at the tailgate before the home New England Revolution game every year, sometimes multiple times a year if the Revs visit more than once. I took some time this week to figure out the beginnings of this tradition.

In 2002 the Rapids got off to a slow start, the team was slightly above .500 (4-1-3) and had only scored 9 goals in those 8 games. A couple of the supporters decided they needed to change things up and decided the next game would be Jameson's night at the tailgate. Its unclear if the choice of Jamesons was intentional to tie into New England being in town and Boston's Irish background or if it was just a coincidence. Those 2-3 supporters brought the Jamesons to the tailgate and a few other die-hards joined in. By the end of the tailgate some people were pretty hammered as they headed into Invesco (this was also the Rapids inaugural year at Invesco by the way).

Well the Rapids won, and they didn't just win, they won 5-2. Remember that the team was averaging 1.125 goals per game leading into this one, and hadn't scored more than 2 in any game. It was an offensive output the fans hadn't seen since the team scored 5 against Chicago at Mile High Stadium in 1998. Of course, those that partook most heavily in the Jamesons didn't really remember the game. ;) Not only that, but the next game the Rapids scored 3 at home against LA. Suddenly the Rapids offense was on fire. New England came back 3 weeks later, which was too soon to organize another Jameson's Night, and the Rapids lost 2-1.

In 2003 the Rapids started even slower than 2002. By the time of the New England home game the team was 1-2-6 with 4 goals in those 9 games. Obviously it was time to try the Jameson's Night again. Sure enough the fans got sauced and the Rapids won 4-1. The Rapids hadn't scored 4 goals since the prior Jameson's Night. As Jason Greene, one of the 2-3 supporters that originally came up with the idea (and one that doesn't really remember that first game), puts it, "I'm not normally a superstitious person, but after going 2-0 with 9 for and 3 against over our first two Jameson's Nights, it was clear to us that keeping up tradition would be worth every blown chunk.". After the successes of the first two Jameson's Nights, the tradition was on.

Including that first Jameson's Night the Rapids are 6-3-1 against New England at home since that game, outscoring them 21-9 with 4 shutouts. The only loss was the second game in 2002 when there was no Jameson's Night. The Rapids have never lost when Jameson's Night was held, let's hope that streak continues on Saturday night!

Rapids Waive Holody

To make cap room after the two trades thus week the Rapids waived defender Michael Holody. He was drafted last year and made 4 appearances last season, scoring one goal.

Colin Clark Traded For Brian Mullan

It seems that the Rapids are wheeling and dealing as the roster freeze date hits today. They've just sent Colin Clark and allocation money to Houston for midfielder Brian Mullan. This trade surprises me more than yesterday's. I expected Clark to remain on the roster through his rehab but never return to the player he was before his two ACL tears. I really didn't expect the Rapids to be able to get anything for him. Clark was part of the group that really benefited from the reserve league, along with players like Peterson, Coundoul, Harvey, and LaBrocca. The only remaining members of that group on the Rapids are Kimura and Cummings.

Mullan is 32 and has been a core of Houston's recent run at the top of the table. He was originally drafted by LA in 2001 and then moved to San Jose (who later became the Dynamo). At 32 he's not a long-term solution for the Rapids but he'll help us this season and probably next season.

Since Colorado seems to have an aversion to going outside the league to sign players right now, allocation money is worthless to us. All in all it was a nice move to get something for money we won't spend and a player that won't be back to his full self until at least the middle of next season, if ever.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rapids Trade Ballouchy To NY For Kandji

The Rapids have announced a trade with last week's opponents the NY Red Bulls. They left Ballouchy in NY and brought back Macoumba Kandji. Kandji is a 25-year old forward from Senegal who's spent some time playing on the wing as well. He was signed by NY 2 years ago tomorrow from the Atlanta USL team, and since then has made 41 appearances for RBNY, with 30 starts, 6 goals, and 7 assists.

Its no secret that I've never been a Ballouchy fan, so I don't think we lost much giving him up. Kandji gives us the depth at forward that Amarikwa and Akpan have bot been able to fill. The big question is who takes Ballouchy's spot on the wing in the 4-4-2 and/or his spot int he middle in the 4-5-1? Kandji has had limited success on the wing, but maybe Smith thinks he can have better luck with him. Otherwise the most likely beneficiary is Wells Thompson, who has not impressed. Going back to the 4-5-1 would almost require Lopez to start now.

Monday, September 13, 2010

NY Outclasses Colorado

On Saturday the Red Bulls clearly showed they were better than the Rapids. With the exception of about 10 minutes on either side of the half NY dominated the game and won by a deserved 3-1 scoreline. The Red Bulls were the better team in every section of the field and while a bit of individual brilliance from Omar Cummings gave the Rapids a bit of hope, NY took that away quickly.

The first NY goal in the 17th minute was a bit of class as Lindpere to a Henry pass and back-heeled it back to Henry on a give and go that beat Kimura and Larentowicz. 15 minutes later it was another NY DP, Rafa Marquez, that floated a free kick into the back that was headed back across goal by Tchani where Tim Ream headed it home for his first ever MLS goal.

The Rapids exerted more control going into and coming out of halftime. Ballouchy pinged one off the post two minutes into the half and 6 minutes later Cummings went to work. He took the ball in midfield, pressed forward, and from 35 yards hit a laser off the bottom of the crossbar to half the deficit. The advantage was short lived though as 6 minutes later Jamie Smith failed to clear a ball that landed at Dane Richards feet inside the 18 and he put the nail in the coffin of Colorado's hopes. The Rapids had two legitimate calls for a PK later in the game, but they went unheeded and NY got the deserved win.

My key to the game was playing up to our opponents and not coasting. I don't think we coasted by any means but NY was still significantly better than us.

Other Observations:
  • Anthony Wallace was beaten like a drum by Dane Richards early in the game. He adapted well though, and with the exception of the poor clearance by Smith kept Richards fairly contained.
  • This game will not be on Jamie Smith's highlight reel. Besides the bad clearance that led to the final goal he wasn't on the same page offensively with the rest of the team.
  • The team probably got hosed on at least one PK, but the refs aren't to blame for the loss (despite what Gary Smith might say.
  • I love Koz but Kimura vs. Thierry Henry just isn't fair.
  • Baudet had some ups and downs, it wasn't his best game. Still, we need him healthy going forward, hopefully the injury isn't too bad.
  • At least nobody close to suspension picked up a yellow card.
  • Chicago and Toronto's losses has turned the playoffs into a 4 team race for 3 spots. We're still in good shape.
Player of the Game: Omar Cummings, for the second straight week. He had a legitimate GotW for a second straight week, one of a few highlights for the Rapids in this one.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Rapids Hope To Send Red Bulls Splashing

Colorado is in NY tomorrow facing the Red Bulls. Its their second trip to NY this year after losing there in the U.S. Open Cup play-in. After their two 3-0 wins the last two weeks the Rapids are riding high, but they face a much improved RBNY team who now sport Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry. Game time is an early 2pm Denver time, with the game both on KWGN and on Telefutura. No official watch party for this one, but I'm sure the regular spots will have the game on.

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (back spasms), DEF Marvell Wynne (L hamstring strain)

Discipline Report:
ONE CAUTION FROM SUSPENSION: Conor Casey, Pablo Mastroeni
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Omar Cummings, Jeff Larentowicz

Marvell Wynne reportedly did not make the trip to NY. I also would not be surprised to find out Ian Joyce did not make the trip as his wife delivered their first child on Monday. Congrats to the Joyces! NY has 5 players either out to injury or on duty with the U.S. U-20 team, so they're hurting as well. My best guess on the starting XI:

Kimura - Moor - Baudet - Wallace
Ballouchy - Larentowicz - Pablo - Smith
Cummings - Casey

I think we see no change from the starting group last week. It worked well and after some initial difficulty Wallace fit in well. The only change I could see is if Smith thinks we have possession issues on the road and shifts Cummings back to his position in the 4-5-1, but I think he's realized the value of the 4-4-2.

Key To Look For: Do the Rapids play up to their opponents? NY is significantly better than the two teams we just beat 3-0. Will the Rapids raise their game to match them, or will they think that they've done well enough up to this point?

Prediction: 1-0 loss. I think NY is a very good team and the Rapids aren't at their level yet. We have a solid defense but I expect that the Red Bulls can shut down our offense. We're also playing early on the road, which won't help. Add in the emotional impact of NY playing (essentially) in NY on 9/11 and I think that they'll get a close win.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Roommates Shut Down Chivas USA

Best friends and roommates Omar Cummings and Kosuke Kimura put a beat down on the Under-A-Chivas Saturday night. After a first half where nothing happened but the Rapids controlled play mainly through Chivas' inability to do anything in the offensive third Omar decided it was time for a his shoes. He swapped cleats at halftime and suddenly became a different player.

In the 52nd minute Koz stole the ball and fed Omar on the right side. Omar took a rocket of a shot from the edge of the box that Chivas keeper Zack Thorton could only parry, and Casey was there to clean up the rebound for a 1-0 lead. 16 minutes later Cummings once again go the ball on the left side and decided to twist the Chivas defense into knots. He got into the box, cut outside, cut inside, cut back outside, and put a shot to the far post past Thornton. Once Chivas got untied they realized they were down 2-0 after that Goal of the Week candidate. Omar wasn't done yet. 13 minutes later he turned his defender and left him in the dust for a 1v1 against Thornton and a 3-0 lead. Not surprisingly, Cummings was named MLS Player of the Week yesterday.

My key to the game was knocking Chivas out early. We knocked them out the second half. Once we started though, we didn't let up until they were out cold.

Other Observations:
  • Kimura had his best game of the season and was my pick for Man of the Match until Omar went off in the last 30 minutes. It seemed that every time Chivas came down their left side, Koz stopped them cold.
  • With the two wins in the last two weeks and the other results the margin for error for the playoffs has increased somewhat. We might be able to get in with 2 more wins and a draw or two, but we need to remain focused and get 3 wins to make sure of it.
  • This team is so much more dangerous with Cummings playing along side Casey up top and not as a winger.
  • That's partially due tot he fact that Pablo and Larentowicz have figured out how to make the central midfield work without somebody in front of them. The Ginger Ninja's presence has given Pablo the confidence to go forward and at least be a threat to free up the wings.
  • Anthony Wallace made his Rapids debut and looked solid if unspectacular on the left. Given the (apparent) lack of faith in Earls I'd start him there again until Wynne is healthy.
  • Andre Akpan got his first MLS minutes. He didn't have much of a chance to do anything other than prevent a Chivas player from stopping the long ball to Cummings on the last goal.
  • A note to the three yahoos sitting behind me in Class VI. when you weren't talking about how amazing SEC and Tennessee football is (both significantly overrated) you were making it clear that you've never really seen the Rapids play, and I doubt you've ever seen a MLS game. Thanks to your loud mouths I'm pretty sure half the team is wondering why Class VI was turning on them in a 3-0 rout.
Player of the Game: Omar Cummings, duh. He was Player of the Week league wide, clearly the man of the match.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rapids Take On Baby Goats

The Rapids are looking at another must-win game tomorrow. The win last week combined with the other results took a bit of the pressure off, but the Under-a-Chivas are the worst team in the conference and if we can't beat them, we don't belong in the playoffs. These teams faced off in the opening game of the season, where the Rapids got their first ever opening day road win. Game time tomorrow is at 7, tailgate starts at 5, due to the Washington-BYU game I won't get there until about 6:30. ;)

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); MF Colin Clark (L ACL tear); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear)
DOBUBTFUL: DEF Marvell Wynne (L hamstring strain)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (back spasms)

Discipline Report:
ONE CAUTION FROM SUSPENSION: Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Pablo Mastroeni

Chivas has 5 players missing or questionable. Colorado will have to re-shuffle their back line, my best guess::

Kimura - Moor - Baudet - Earls
Ballouchy - Larentowicz - Pablo - Smith
Cummings - Casey

It seems like we've returned to the 4-4-2. I expect that Smith will go with the same backline he used mid-game last week when Wynne got hurt, but he could put Palguta in the middle and keep Moor on the outside.

I also think that Pablo and Casey should pick up yellow cards this game. Next week's game in NY on 9/11 seems to be a game we're unlikely to win. Better that they're suspended for that game then one of the following games when our odds at full strength are better. Cummings will get a card knocks off if he doesn't get a card this week, so he's free and clear if he stays clean.

Key To Look For: Knocking Chivas out early. The more Colorado lets Chivas hang around the better their chance of stealing a point or even pulling off the upset. Like last week we need to hit them hard and hit them early.

Prediction: 2-0 win, goals by Conor Casey and Omar Cummings. I think that Casey continues on the hot streak he was on last week, both getting a goal and an assist. Chivas can't crack our defense and we blank them both games this season.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Rapids Stuck In An Eddy, Part 3

Part 1 and Part 2 if this, for now, 3 part series are here.

So far we've discussed the fact that the Rapids apparently have no plans to improve this season and the fact that their moves since the end of last season seem to be running in place. This week I want to look at some of the statements we've heard from the Rapids leadership lately.

Let's start with coach Gary Smith (prior to the win over Houston):
“What you need effectively are four wins,” he said. “Six games are at home. I’d have bitten someone’s arm off at the elbow to be in that position.”
The leader of the team has set a goal of 4 wins in 10 games. This coming off a streak of 1 win in 10 games. So in the last 2/3rds of the season 5 wins out of 20 is "effective". That amounts to 7-8 wins over the course of a 30 game season. I'm really glad we put 6 wins up in out first 10 games, because otherwise the goal of 5 wins in the rest of the season would leave us going nowhere.

I'm not sure 4 wins is enough, 5 is probably going to be what we need. Assuming that 4 games is enough though, do you really want your head coach to come out and say "We're aiming for a .400 winning percentage"? Shouldn't he be saying "Every game is winnable, and we'll be disappointed if we don't win more than all of them" or something? Admittedly some of our games look like we're unlikely to win (@LA, @NY) but you have to have the confidence to go in to those games expecting to win.

Let's move on to Technical Director Paul Bravo (from the booth during the broadcast of the KC home game):
"We're striving to be great, we're not striving to be average"
Really? As I've shown in the last two parts of this series they don't seem to be striving to do much more than the status quo. Does "striving to be great" include passing on the only non-U.S. linked signing in a year due to money? Does "striving to be great" mean signing no significant players while the rest of the league signs players like Henry and Castillo? Does "striving to be great" include being the only MLS team not to test themselves against international competition this season? Does "striving to be great" include a coach making a statement that they're aiming for a .400 winning percentage?

Bravo's statement is a great platitude, but he needs to back it up with more than talk.

Finally, Managing Director Jeff Plush. We've already covered his statements about DP players and international matches in the first part of this series, but that's not all he's said. For example, (on the signing of Davy Armstrong:

"We know that, for our country to be as successful as it can be in this sport, you have to develop your own players," Rapids managing director Jeff Plush said. "We can't be in the situation where we're going out and acquiring players from around the world to build our rosters. You have to have a development system. So it's a very exciting day."

To be fair to Plush he seems to be following his own statement, given the lack of international signings in the last year. But the idea that we're going to be successful in this sport without building our rosters from international players is ludicrous. Name me one team in the top 5 leagues in the world that has only domestic players. That concept went out the window as the sport grew worldwide over the last 20 years due to TV, and it was even outdated before that. While I understand that Plush was trying to hype the (legitimately) important step of signing an academy player, statements like this just make you wonder if he knows what it takes to succeed in this league.

I'm all for making soccer work in this country, but we have a (soon-to-be) 18-team league, 10 soccer-specific stadiums by next year, players like Henry playing here, and a fanbase that is disappointed when the National Team fails to make it to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. I think the sport is doing fine considering the league is only 15 years old. Plush's focus should be on what the Rapids need to do to succeed, not what the sport needs to do. Considering his team is in a playoff spot (barely) while his team averages 4 starters in the starting XI per game and an international coaching staff tells you that a domestic-only policy doesn't fly.

I just picked one recent quote from each of the men in charge of the Rapids. There are others that could be listed, but I think this makes the point. I think its clear that the Rapids leadership is not on the same page as the fans or the rest of the league. Until they are, the Rapids will continue to float in this eddy while the rest of the league sails by in the main current of improvement.

For now, this is the end of the series. We'll see what the future brings.